News / Vancouver

Vancouver school closures ruled out… for now

B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier says “there is no school closure process” in Vancouver after replacing fired board with appointee.

Parents of east Vancouver schools drop of more than 18,000 signed petitions to keep schools open to the B.C. government's cabinet offices in Vancouver on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016.

Matt Kieltyka/Metro

Parents of east Vancouver schools drop of more than 18,000 signed petitions to keep schools open to the B.C. government's cabinet offices in Vancouver on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016.

Vancouver schools are not on the chopping block, yet.

British Columbia Education Minister Mike Bernier tried to re-assure the public of that on Tuesday, a day after firing the Vancouver School Board for failing to pass a balanced budget.

The school board initially proposed closing as many as 12 schools next year to bridge a $21 million budget deficit but suspended the process earlier this month to the chagrin of Bernier, who has accused the board of failing to make “tough decisions” in the past.

But the minister now says newly appointed official trustee Dianne Turner, a former school superintendent in Delta, has no intention to revisit closures as she comes to grips with running the troubled district.

“I know there has been a lot of questions around that. What I can say to make sure there is no confusion out there … there is no school closure process right now in Vancouver,” he said. “[Turner’s] main goal is to bring stability into Vancouver. Her focus is not on a school closure process, it’s not on the long-range facilities plan right now. She did confirm to me that school closures are not being considered anytime in the foreseeable future in Vancouver. She is going to be very busy doing many other things.”

Those “other things” include getting the VSB back on track financially and trying to convince six senior staff members to come back from medical leave amid a WorkSafeBC investigation into workplace bullying.

Bernier said Turner will be given plenty of time to develop a new VSB budget and will have to eventually draft a new long-range facilities plan that could decide the fate of some schools, but insisted those decisions will be left up to her.

Meanwhile, opposition NDP MLAs Adrian Dix, Melanie Mark and Shane Simpson were joined by a half dozen parents outside the government’s cabinet offices in Vancouver to drop off more than 18,000 petitions collected this summer to keep their children’s schools open.

Parents expressed fears that the VSB’s abandoned plan to close a number of east Vancouver schools could be re-opened after the firing of the board.

“We worked hard all summer getting signatures on these petitions, to get to this point where trustees were listening to us, that we had some certainty that the closure process was suspended,” said Melanie Cheng, parent advisor council chair of Graham Bruce elementary school. “And then they were fired. We’re outraged that our school is now again at risk of potentially being closed.”

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